The Los Angeles Rams had to wait until Day 2 to make their splash in the 2020 NFL Draft. It turned out to be a great day for Rams head coach Sean McVay and team general manager Les Snead. The four picks the Rams landed on Day 2 are more or less expected to contribute right from the start.
On Day 3, the Rams drafted five more players, picking Purdue tight end Brycen Hopkins at No. 136 of the fourth round, Ohio State safety Jordan Fuller in Round 6 (No. 199). Linebacker Clay Johnston (No. 234), kicker Sam Sloman (No. 248), and guard Tremayne Anchrum (No. 250) were drafted by the team in the seventh round.
Of the nine players that the Rams drafted this year, who will and who will not play prominent roles this season as rookies, is something that McVay is going to let play out.
“I think it’s to be determined,” McVay said. “We want to create a competitive roster. You have a vision for everybody that you onboard, but all these guys we felt like could contribute in some form or fashion. Some in some roles that if they live up to the expectations we have, will be greater than others. That’s the beauty of competition, but I think where you realistically project, okay, if this guy does what we think he’s capable of, he can create a role for himself.”
Now that rookie free agents have been added to the roster, the Rams 2020 draft class could be rated as a (P) for potential. The make or break of the team’s draft status this year is banked on the potential of their first four picks, even though jewels have often been found in the later rounds.
The Rams’ priority coming into the draft was drafting a big-time player at the running back position. Next up on the chart for Snead and McVay was finding a wide receiver who will make plays. In baseball terminology, the Rams may have hit a home run with picks No. 52 and No. 57.
Florida State running back Cam Akers (No.52) and Florida wideout Van Jefferson (No. 57) are younger upgrades or new replacements for 3-time Pro Bowler Todd Gurley (now with the Atlanta Falcons) and speedy wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
The Rams went offense, offense with their first two selections then went the other direction by picking Alabama linebacker Terrell Lewis in the No. 84 slot and locking up Utah defensive back Terrell Burgess. Looking at their roster landscape, McVay and Snead made these picks purely on need.
It’s pretty reasonable to see why. The Rams saw an exodus of players moving to other places of employment during the offseason, including watching defensive stud Michael Brockers ride off into the East Coast sunset to sign with the Baltimore Ravens, Corey Littleton moving his luggage to the Las Vegas Raiders, and seeing safety Eric Weddle call it quits.
That’s not counting the fact the Rams traded Cooks to the Houston Texans a couple of weeks before the draft. With their first four picks in Round 2 and Round 3, the Rams no doubt were looking at players who could come in and play immediately. McVay marveled in particular about picking Lewis and Burgess (No. 104).
“To be able to get Terrell Lewis, a guy that we had really had a lot of appreciation for his skill set,” McVay said. “ He’s had some injuries, but I think they’ve been some freak instances. You look at when this guy is able to play, he’s healthy, he’s ready to go. I looked upset on that because I had the wrong draft day (phone) number, it wasn’t because I was not happy about him, I was really excited to be able to get him.”
“I said, ‘How the heck is this guy not answering the phone, we just got off the phone, told him we’re going to pick him and I’m the idiot calling the wrong number.’ I forgot the dang recording thing was on, so I was excited about that,” McVay added. “To be able to get (Terrell) Burgess at the end, just the makeup of the human being, the versatility of his skill set, I think it’s huge.”
With quarterback Jared Goff in need of playmakers on offense, McVay and the Rams took up the onus to find those and land those two players with their first couple of choices, something Snead sounded very enthusiastic about.
“General thoughts were, we had a game plan to start today and the good thing is our first two picks were the first two picks that we wanted to get done,” Snead said about the team picking Akers and Jefferson.
“That doesn’t happen all the time, but as we prepare for this draft, plan for it, I felt like those two players were realistic targets for us,” Snead added. “Felt like they would definitely help (Head Coach) Sean (McVay) and his offense. I always say, ‘Get yards, first downs, explosives and touchdowns, score points.’ We all know when you have more points at the end of the game, you’ve got a good chance of winning.”
Akers and Jefferson should provide an immediate impact to the team. Jefferson, whose father, Shawn Jefferson, is a former NFL receiver and is now position coach with the New York Jets, will be a close watch. The younger Jefferson led Florida in receiving his last two seasons playing for the Gators after transferring from Mississippi.
Some of the attributes that Jefferson graded out well at the NFL Combine is that he can get the ball up the field quickly after making the catch, is astute in paying attention to detail when it comes to creating separation from defenders, and he knows how to throw defenders off-balance by changing speed and angle gears.
To top that off, Jefferson is viewed as being ultra-competitive.
“Where I see him fitting in, is a guy that adds value just like (RB) Cam Akers does to the running back group, same thing with (WR) Van (Jefferson),” McVay said. “What you feel really good about is, three players that are starting players in our offense that come from that receiver group and I think Van really provides the opportunity to play all three spots. I think he’s a really polished route runner.”
“I think one of the things that you look at, you say, ‘All right, what is a receiver supposed to do? Separate and catch the football.’ I think this guy does this as well as anybody in this draft class,” McVay stated. “He’s a coach’s kid, he plays like a coach’s kid that’s been around NFL caliber players. He looks like he’s been running routes in training camp since he’s 10 years old.”
It’s the intangibles about the game that he picked up from his dad, Jefferson said.
“Just hard work and dropping your weight, getting out of cuts – that’s something that my dad has taught me ever since I was a little kid,” Jefferson said in a video conference call. “I think that’s something that I harp on. I take pride in my route running. I think that’s something that he taught me, and just being an all-around receiver. Just doing everything that a receiver does and just being the best player you can be.”